Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: The Error of my Ways

Hey, it's Wednesday! It's time for me to confess the error of my ways and use the GeneaBlogger's blogging prompt called Wisdom Wednesdays. I make a lot of mistakes, follow misques, and even go down blind alleys that have a big sign saying "blind alley ahead" and generally waste too much time stumbling around. Every error that I can see becomes a blessing in disguise as I eventually figure out a new way to proceed. Hopefully.

This week I have a couple of doozies! I got all enamored with a story about a family line and didn't first stop to double check our connection to it and make certain that it was solid. Yikes!

But to the good, I helped Cousin Rich and Mom as best I could (from 2,000 miles away) and saved him wasted time in a library archive. Throughout watching them (by email) I learned some stuff about research, sources, and what it means to do this work over the long-haul with a commitment and love that comes from doing your own family history research as you carefully vet each and every document and fact as you go along. So here we go: the error of my ways!

House Heirs Association story. OK, so I did get all excited because this is a really good story, but now I come to find out that we're probably not even related to that House line after all! I've done two posts about the story of how descendants of Andrew House and John V. House tried to negotiate a settlement from the US Government in payment for a large parcel of land they supposedly owned in Frederick County, Maryland, reportedly valued at $3 billion, and you can read them here and here. I tell ya', I really got into this whole mess, but good! Whatta story! But now it looks like they aren't even our people. But then again, maybe they are!
I'm going to keep on posting about it because it might be useful to someone and it is fascinating.
Plus Mom has some sort of report or notes from a meeting of the House Heir Association in the early 1900s in her files and I want to review and report on that next time I visit Mom.
Had to laugh at myself real hard on this one!! We might not even be related! Funny thing is that we don't yet know where our House ancestors actually came from before they got to Virginia/West Virginia, and maybe it was Frederick over in Maryland because that's all real close, geographically, but there's no proof.

Mom and Cousin Rich. I learned a lot watching Cousin Rich and Mom this week. I say "watching" but I was no where close enough to see what was going on. Here's the deal.
Cousin Rich's wife started corresponding with Mom over 10 years ago. Then Rich got into genealogy and had pretty much finished up his family so dove into his wife's ancestors. Mom and Rich compared notes on the Hartley - Farrell - House - Biggerstaff lines that all intersect in Hampshire County, West Virginia / Virginia from the later 1700s on to the mid-1800s. Take my word on this: it's real complicated.
Following Mom and Rich along on this adventure I learned a lot and here's what I saw.
1. Finding and maintaining contact with fellow travelers is magic. Mom and Rich's wife met on a surname message board over a decade ago. Once in contact, they exchanged what they knew and kept updating over the years. You can tell they were in it for the long haul. What one didn't find, maybe the other did or went to look for and then shared. They knew they were not alone in the pursuit of their family's history. I find it magic that they found each other using the internet and magic that we're all related and know it.
2. Sourcing records can be easy... and useful! Mom started her adventures with the ancestors back in the 1970s. She had a simple system using surname binders. When she found a document or record for someone it went in that surname binder. The only exception is the two big binders with BMD records, and of course the photo file. Her surname binders are a treasure trove! Each record or note has a handwritten inscription about where Mom got it.
Mom was able to pull out her Farrell binder and read to me notations she made many years ago when she was over in Morgantown, WV, in the West Virginia University Library, Regional History Collection and archive. I typed as Mom read from her notes and then I emailed that document to Rich. He was able to go there on his research trip/vacation and locate the information right away because he was already in contact with the librarian who pulled the boxes before he got there. Mom's notes were simple and accurate and Rich was able to find his way to that source. And that's the way that works!
The error of my ways notation here is that I need to get better at maintaining contact with those who contact me about a particular family line and think more in terms the long-term and it never being a "hit and run" thing. Am thinking about making a Quick Guide table of these contacts including surname of interest, their name, contact info, and notes. Then, at a glance, I'll be able to tell where I stand with each so that I don't lose them.
Another error of my ways notation is that it's more important for me right now to capture all of the source information for every thing I do and not be intimidated about the form of it. Get every last detail about the record down and worry about making it pretty later.

Grandpop Kelly on his trip to Florida in the 1950s.
John Lee Kelly 1892 - 1969.

The URL for this post is:


  1. I love how you said to get the source information down now and make it pretty later. That's my feelings exactly. I love your openness and honesty. I enjoy reading your lessons learned though I don't always comment.

  2. Enjoyed your post! I think we've all gone down the wrong path a time or two. :) I like the idea of a Quick Guide for contacts. I have a few that turned into long-term friendships, but I have a lot of hit and run ones too.